I went to Speedway to grab a hot chocolate as I was out for church this morning. I noted that the hot chocolate machine produced plenty of hot water, but essentially zero hot chocolate mix. I poured out the mixture and opted for a coffee instead. When I spoke to the clerk, I mentioned to her that the dispensing machine must be out of chocolate mix since I got a cup of hot water.
She looked up at me with a little surprise and said, “Most people are pretty mean when that happens.” I told her that I thought that she should be aware of the fact, but that I was not upset with her or the machine for that malfunction. She thanked me with a smile and I went on to church.
I later thought about this little interaction, and I was dismayed that courtesy seemed to be in somewhat rare supply these days. I share this not to say that I am such a thoughtful person. What I did was, in my opinion, a normal response to the situation. What concerned me was that this poor clerk had to put up with a number of customers who take out their frustrations upon her. My simple (and expected) courtesy was an exception to this clerk and, evidently, far from the rule from her perception.
Is courtesy a value that has become outdated? Have the simple virtues we once cherished been overtaken by a mean spirited age? I think that social media has produced a large amount of intolerance; or maybe it has just given voice to long held resentments by providing a platform for people to shout their anger to the world.
I am not unaware of the irony that this blog is a social media platform, and that I too am voicing my concerns. My hope is that by ringing a bell for a return to some long held virtues such as courtesy and kindness, the norm may once again be caring about our neighbors- the ones with whom we share the planet.